NEW CASTLE —
On May 7, I turned 28 years old.
I understand this is still considered “young,” but I feel as though I have lived many lives in my 28 years. And in those many “lives” I have learned vast and various lessons.
After all, no one can experience almost three decades (OK, phrasing it that way makes me sounds way older) without taking bits and pieces of knowledge away from all of the experiences. I certainly have many life lessons ahead of me, yet I can confidently say that I am a very different person at 28 than I was at 18.
I cannot help but reflect on some of these changes and life lessons as I trek through the first week of my 29th year.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned thus far (and one that I felt to be a myth when I was a teenager) is that despite what your brain is telling you, when you enter a room, not EVERYONE is looking at you.
I probably learned this the hard way, but I always felt the need to look “perfect” when I left the house. If I were going to church my nails had to be done, my hair had to be styled, I had to have on the most perfectly flattering outfit and my jewelry had to match. Mascara was a necessity, as was red lipstick.
It is tiring to be that “presentable” ALL of the time, but I was convinced that if I had flat and straight eyelashes EVERYONE would notice. It took years of practice before I could feel comfortable enough in my own skin to leave the house wearing old sweatpants, no makeup and uncombed hair. Now I usually choose to adorn a bit before public appearances, but if I do not I no longer feel judged by the world.
Another valuable lesson learned is very straightforward: Buying clothes is nice, but having electricity is better.
When I first moved away from home I had the typical teenager’s spending habits. Money would burn holes in my pockets if I didn’t spend it less than 10 hours from when I received it. I shopped incessantly and had no real perception of “saving.” But, when you are 18 years old and living in Manhattan, you realize very quickly that no matter how “cute” a pair of shoes is, they don’t make you feel any less hungry.
I once went on a shopping spree with my roommate. We went to Marshall’s and I thought I “needed” everything I bought. I was scheduled to work the rest of the week waitressing, so I spent all but the money I needed for the subway. When I got to work the next day there was a sign on the door that the restaurant was going to be closed for three weeks for renovations (a piece of information that the owners deemed unnecessary to alert the wait-staff to ahead of time). I ate nothing but green peppers for more than a week, until receiving help from a friend. Lesson learned.
The most prominent and, I believe valuable, piece of wisdom I have acquired in my 28 years is quite simple, yet for many, seemingly impossible to live by: do what makes you happy and fulfilled.
I pair these two concepts together because I feel that sometimes things that make us “happy” leave us feeling somewhat empty. True happiness is achieved when we are at peace with our lives. And it doesn’t matter how insignificant or vastly important our life work seems to be from an outsider’s perspective.
If we are achieving happiness and fulfillment, we have made the right decisions.
NEW CASTLE —
On May 7, I turned 28 years old.
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